QUEEN’S PARK — Official Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is calling on the government to re-start scheduled surgeries, and urgently give hospitals the staff and money they need to do them.
“There are thousands of people who have had surgeries cancelled or delayed. Some are living in pain, and many are living with the anxiety and fear of knowing their cancer or illness is progressing while they wait,” said Horwath. “It was a shock to so many people that Premier Doug Ford announced a reopening that didn’t mention a word about re-starting surgeries.”
On Jan. 5, the Ford government instructed hospitals to stop all non-urgent surgeries and procedures to preserve critical-care and staff capacity to cope with the Omicron wave. That halt was to be in place until at least Jan. 26 — but while other re-opening measures have been announced, no plan to re-start and accelerate surgeries has even been mentioned by Ford or his government.
In 2021, The Financial Accountability Office (FAO) calculated that the province needed to invest $1.3 billion to clear the backlog of surgeries created by earlier slow-downs and halts during the pandemic, but the government was willing to spend just a fraction of that, $324 million. As a result, the number of people waiting only grew. The Ontario Medical Association says there are 20 million backlogged health services, and the wait for heart surgery is 14 months long.
In contrast, The British Columbia government hired at least 755 surgeons, nurses, diagnostic imaging technicians and others health care workers vital to surgeries; increased operating room hours; and bought additional MRI machines. In its July 2021 progress report, the British Columbia government said 98.7 per cent of postponed procedures had been completed.
“There is no better investment than getting surgeries re-started — relieving people’s pain and fear as soon as we can,” said Horwath. "If I were premier today, I would launch a centralized referral system that would help make it possible for the next patient in line to get the next available surgeon. I’d extend operating room hours, recruit, retain and return staff with incentives, and cut registration fees for retired nurses so they can start work again.
“Doug Ford needs to repeal the directive that’s got surgeries on pause, and get hospitals anything and everything they need to re-start surgeries, before people’s pain and illnesses progress any further.”
“I am only 27 years old. In September 2021, I was diagnosed with cancer and was waitlisted for surgery. Finally, my surgery was scheduled for January 11, 2022. Then I was informed that the surgery was postponed to January 18, 2022. Not only did I arrange for a replacement at work during my post operation recovery, I drove for 3 hours to my pre surgery appointment during the very heavy snow storm on January 17. At the end of pre pre-surgery appointment, I was advised the surgery was canceled indefinitely due to scarce resources. My family and I are living in constant anxiety and fear. We fear that the coming reopening on January 31 will put further strain on the heath system and further delay my necessary treatment. More needs to be done so that cancer surgeries can resume.”
“I had a non-elective quadruple bypass in January 2021. In February of 2021 my incision opened up. I have had an open chest wound since then! After many failed attempts to get a surgery booked in Ottawa at the Heart institute, I finally got a surgeon in North Bay who was willing and able to do the surgery. It was booked for Jan.19. On Jan. 11 that surgery was canceled due to the lack of thought put into the current restrictions and how it will effect the lives of the residents of this once-amazing province. How much longer do I have to go with sharp wires sticking out of my chest and ripping through my skin before I can get this "elective" surgery? I am just one of thousands of patients who want basic care and to be able to go a day without pain meds to live.”
“My sister has kidney cancer and the surgery to remove her kidney was cancelled just days before it was scheduled to happen because no beds were available. This was extremely concerning and heartbreaking as many members of our family have succumbed to cancer. My sister is only 46, and the only one I have left. I can’t afford to lose her, and neither can her young children.
We count ourselves fortunate that my sister’s surgery has been reclassified and rescheduled after we shared our story with CityNews, but it would be impossible for the thousands upon thousands of families in Ontario whose loved ones are facing similar delays to do the same. The government needs to re-start surgeries so everyone who is waiting gets the call that their turn is coming soon, too.”